**Disclaimer: I was provided with a Blackberry Q5 to use for a several weeks in exchange for writing a review. I was not compensated and was not given a phone to keep as a gift. All experiences and opinions regarding the Blackberry Q5 are my own.**
I am a former Blackberry owner. I won’t go so far to say that we are bitter exes but our breakup was definitely not a clean one. I used 2 different devices over the years (the original Pearl followed by the Storm 2) and was initially happy with both. What I noticed more than anything was that the phones themselves weren’t so bad but they had a lot of trouble competing with their more innovative competitors. I found the browser to be useless as it took way too long and was not in anyway functional for me, the camera to be subpar at best and the battery to be a constant problem. In the end, a phone crash (and admittedly, horrendous customer service from the carrier I was with at the time) and battery issues that were costing more than the phone was worth led me to have that uncomfortable talk with my blackberry and a sad goodbye for us both.
A lot has changed since then and although BlackBerry has had more downs than ups in recent years, when they reached out to me with the Q5 (which just became available in Canada on August 13) and a premise, I decided to give it a go and see if it lived up to the hype.
As a busy mom, I’m shuffling work, daycare drop-offs, meetings, 2 small side businesses (photography and this blog), running and various other attempts to stay fit and sane and have some version of a social life in the two spare minutes I have each day. In short: I’m constantly on the go, rarely sitting down and need/desire to stay plugged in and in touch as much as possible. I’m one of a million moms in the same arena and in the midst of the chaos, there needs to be organization.
Enter the BlackBerry Q5. The latest offering from BlackBerry incorporates the Blackberry 10 IOS with a wide selection of productivity and entertainment apps offered through BlackBerry World to help meet the every changing mobile needs of us busy on-the-go moms.
That’s the claim, but does it translate in practice? I was determined to find out!
My initial impression of the phone was very positive. It’s light, sleek and it combines a keypad with a touch screen. This my friends, is magical. I love a touch screen but MUCH prefer typing emails, Facebook updates and Tweeting from a keypad. I may be in a minority but I just find it easier and I’m more than willing to sacrifice some screen size to have it. The phone was smaller than I was expecting and fit very nicely in my hand, purse, pocket, whatever. The power button is located on the top which I actually found to be a nice feature, no matter how insignificant it may seem. When reaching to grab my phone out of my purse, I wasn’t accidentally turning it on and hitting buttons, doing who knows what while fumbling around. It’s a simple structural feature but one that I appreciate.
One of my biggest complaints about my prior BlackBerry experience was the relative uselessness of the browser. I may have been willing to wait 5 minutes for a webpage to load back in the days when dial-up what the height of sophistication but not now. Previously, I just avoided the internet all together which was a real waste of money paying for internet I wasn’t using. I was absolutely blown away by how fast the browser loaded. It didn’t matter if I had one page open or a dozen, it always loaded quickly and the quality of the graphics is superb. I’m pretty sure I stared at it for 5 solid minutes just marveling at how good everything looked. Well done BlackBerry, well done. Blogs loaded in seconds and I had no issues commenting on them at all.
Emailing was a snap. The set-up took mere seconds and before I knew it, I had 4 accounts receiving and sending mail. As I mentioned already, emailing was so enjoyable on the keypad. I was almost giddy. With the learning capability of BlackBerry 10 you get personalized intelligent word suggestions and contextual auto-correction. The auto-correct was used a lot…I’m a terrible speller.
One of BlackBerry’s biggest downfalls, at least from someone who works and deals in social media, is the lack of apps, when compared with its competition. Though it came loaded with Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare (which, ironically is the app that did my last BlackBerry in. I took a deep breath when I opened it), it didn’t come with apps that I use on a daily basis: Instagram, Facebook Messanger and Facebook Page Manager. This actually made it more difficult to access my business pages because neither appeared in my menu in Facebook, nor was I able to see my messages or the number of posts in any of the groups I’m a part of. This really reduced my productivity on the road. It also lacks a lot of fitness apps that I would look for because as we all know, I love my tech. I did find Runtastic Pro but not the free version. Simple things really but when I’m on the go and sometimes only have a minute or two to update a page, respond to a client through a Facebook message or have an opportunity to post something mindless, yet amusing on Instagram (sweaty selfies come to mind…my feet in colourful socks. You know…important stuff), I need to stuff to be easily accessible and found this not to be the case when it came to my social media needs. I should mention that there are some paid apps that may have fit the bill for me but because this was a trial period, I didn’t pay for any additional apps and only looked into free ones.
The BlackBerry Q5 also features two cameras, each capable of capturing HD video. The rear facing camera features autofocus and can capture 8MP shots in an instant. It includes a bright (and I do mean BRIGHT!!!) LED flash that can be set to activate automatically or not at all. The front facing camera is ideal for selfies (or you with a couple of friends relishing in a post-run glow) and quickly sharing it on a social media site, or for video chatting over BBM.
The camera is designed to be extremely fast at capturing images and easily accessible, because you never know when the “right” moment will suddenly happen. Tapping almost anywhere on the display instantly captures a picture to the Pictures app, and the camera is then ready to shoot again. For quick access, the camera is always accessible from the Home screen (which I loved). You can even launch the camera if the smartphone is in standby which is great because you never know when your kids will be insanely adorable and need to be captured and uploaded to 50 different sites instantly.
I used the camera quite a bit and though it did live up to the quickness of capture, it wasn’t always in focus or too dark without the flash, too bright with it. In those lower light situations, my kids were definitely not happy with the flash (I believe Fit Boy claimed blindness at one point). When it works, it works well and there’s a great app that allows you to upload instantly to Twitter, which is great. I found it to be hit and miss overall.
The final aspect I tested out on the phone is the battery life. I leave the house early and get home around dinner time. While I’m at work I’m generally not on my phone except to check emails and messages on my breaks. By the time I got home the battery was on it’s last legs and needing a charge. I’m not sure how well the phone would last if I was actually on it more but at the same time, I think this is an issue with any phone running a lot of apps. I really don’t hold this one again BlackBerry. I’m a battery killer.
The Last Word(s):
So we’ve looked at some of the pros and cons of the BlackBerry Q5. It definitely impressed me but some of the drawbacks really can’t be ignored. So here are some thoughts to consider if you’re thinking about crossing over into Q5 territory. The phone retails for about $425CDN on a no-contract basis and $50 or so on a 2 year commitment with most major mobile retailers. This is an insanely good price when you look at what you get for that price point. What you have to balance out is will it meet your needs on a daily basis. In my case, because of the nature of the work that I do and my reliance on having my pages and data available to me, I would definitely need to put a lot of thought into it because though it lacks some of the things I would consider to be high priority, the price and the ease of use of the device cannot be ignored. In the 3 weeks I’ve used this phone, I haven’t even had a chance to use all of the features it comes with. I would need more time to really dig in and explore what this bad boy is capable of.
Bottom line: Is this a phone for a busy mom on the go? Absolutely, yes. Is it a phone for a social media mom on the go? The answer to that would really depend, once again, on priorities vs. needs. My overall response is that I am very impressed with the phone. As a past BlackBerry user, I can say with absolute confidence that this phone is a move in the right direction in terms of exceeding quality at a mid-range price.